The sheer beauty of Saturn and its amazing rings takes center stage in this spectacular new photo from NASA's Cassini spacecraft.
Cassini spent most of last year orbiting Saturn's equator, a path that kept the spacecraft in the planet's ring plane where it could snap wonderful photos of Saturn's moons. But the ring-plane orbit made it hard for Cassini to capture angled views of Saturn's rings and poles, as seen in this amazing new photo, which NASA released on Monday (May 23).
This image shows Saturn as seen from roughly 16 degrees above the ring plane, with the sunlit side of the rings glowing brightly. Cassini took this image with its wide-angle camera and a special spectral filter on Feb. 26, NASA officials wrote in an image description. At the time, Cassini was about 1.7 million miles (2.8 million kilometers) away from Saturn, they added.
Beginning this year, Cassini has been traveling in a more inclined orbit in preparation for the probe's end of mission in 2017. As a result, Cassini has been taking its most magnificent images of Saturn and its rings yet.
NASA's Cassini spacecraft launched in 1997 and arrived at Saturn in 2004, where it released the Huygens probe that touched landed on the moon Titan in early 2005. The $3.2 billion Cassini-Huygens mission is a joint effort by NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. Cassini's mission will end in 2017 with the spacecraft being intentionally crashed into the ringed planet